Chamber Music Guild is fortunate to have Skyros Quartet serve as Artistic Director. Skyros Quartet brings a bright and inventive style to the performance stage, having concertized extensively on multiple continents. The members of Skyros Quartet are Sarah Pizzichemi, Brandon Vance, Justin Kurys, and Willie Braun. Established in 2010, they have been heard at some of the most prestigious venues and music festivals including the Aspen Music Festival and School (Aspen, Colorado), Seattle Chamber Music Society (Seattle), Deer Valley Music Festival (Park City, Utah), Sunflower Music Festival (Topeka, Kansas), QuartetFest at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (Ontario, Canada), the CommonTone Arts Music Festival (Moscow, Idaho), and at the University of British Columbia concert series (Vancouver, Canada). Skyros has also performed on tour in Xi’an and Hangzhou, China. In 2019, Skyros had the honor of giving the West Coast premiere of the newly composed Piano Quintet by Philip Glass with concert pianist and commissioner Paul Barnes. In 2017, Skyros Quartet, along with cellist Eric Wilson (Emerson String Quartet emeritus), gave the Canadian premiere of Mikołaj Górecki Elegy for Cello and String Quartet at the University of British Columbia.
Concert highlights in upcoming seasons include performances with the acclaimed percussion ensemble arx duo, a tour in China, a performance with John Largess of the Mirò Quartet for a Skyros Quartet anniversary celebration concert, an invitation as guest artists for QuartetFest West, and performing with the Lafayette String Quartet in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Skyros released their debut album, INTROSPECTIVE ODYSSEY, to great international acclaim in August 2015. It can be heard on the Navona label of Parma Recordings, and includes works by Sibelius, Turina and Britten.
As a quartet, Skyros has collaborated with many living composers in the performance of new music. They worked with and performed for renowned Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks in February 2019. Skyros performed in the 2017 critically-acclaimed ballet Approaching Ecstasy with contemporary dance company Whim W’him, vocal ensemble The Esoterics, and composer Eric Banks. They have commissioned and premiered string quartets by Kate Skinner (Wounded Bird, She Dances, 2021), Sabrina Clarke (On Whale Beach, 2021), Liza Sobel (Prayer, 2011), and Devin Maxwell (Bouquet Canyon, CA, 2013). They have also worked with Tonia Ko (Aspen Music Festival and School), Charlie Leftridge (in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chamber Singers and again with the Esoterics), and Stephanie Martin (Sound in the Land conference at the University of Waterloo). In 2014, Skyros was featured at Fast Forward Austin, a new music festival in Austin, Texas. Skyros performed string trios and quartets by the four composers of the W4 New Music Collective: Ruben Naeff, Molly Herron, Matt Frey, and Tim Hansen. Skyros made up the core string section of the UT New Music Ensemble for its 2011- 2012 season.
Founded in 2010, Skyros earned Masters in Chamber Music Performance from the University of Texas at Austin Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, mentored by the Miró Quartet and Sandy Yamamoto. From 2012-2015, they served as the first Graduate Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music, where they completed Doctorates in Chamber Music Performance under the guidance of the Chiara String Quartet. Skyros was also mentored by Earl Carlyss (Juilliard Quartet), James Dunham (Cleveland Quartet), Sylvia Rosenberg, and members of the Takacs, American, Jupiter, and Pacifica String Quartets at the Aspen Music Festival and School Center for Advanced Quartet Studies. Skyros has also been coached extensively by the Muir and Penderecki String Quartets and composer Joan Tower.
Skyros is passionate about educating audiences to the wonders of the string quartet. They regularly visit schools, lead community engagement programs and interactive family concerts, enabling them to inspire audiences of all ages and musical backgrounds. In 2015, the members of Skyros developed an in-school chamber music coaching program from the educational non-profit organization Chamber Music Guild. This in-school program provides weekly coachings to young string quartets using a curriculum designed by Skyros. The members of Skyros Quartet became artistic directors of CMG in 2016. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Skyros Quartet and CMG developed a chamber music podcast to stay connected to the larger music community called The Counterpoint Club. Members of Skyros have also served as faculty at Seattle University, Edmonds Community College, Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska), and the University of Texas at Austin String Project. At UNL, they were Graduate Teaching Assistants for chamber music outreach and a teaching-artist class that works with students to develop interactive presentations for children.
In February 2020, Skyros Quartet formed Constellation Creatives, their own non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Constellation Creatives champions innovative experiences of storytelling through the lens of music with a vision to forge an interactive cultural institution embedded in the Puget Sound community.
Skyros Quartet takes its name from the Greek isle of Skyros, one of a quartet of islands in the Aegean Sea.
“The members of Skyros are the best coaches I have ever worked with….consummate educators, wonderful musicians and kind folks.”
Dr. Sarah Pizzichemi (DMA, MM, BM) has distinguished herself as a versatile and passionate artist and educator with international performances and masterclasses as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician. She is a founding member and violinist of Skyros Quartet, established in 2010, and co-creator of Skyros Quartet’s 501(c)3 nonprofit: Constellation Creatives. Sarah is concertmaster of the Saratoga Chamber Orchestra of Whidbey Island. She is also co-concertmaster of the Pacific Northwest Conducting Institute during the summer. She is co-founder of the music publishing company Evergreen Music Press, which has a mission to broaden string and chamber music education.
Sarah has many private violin students, and maintains the award winning Pizzichemi Violin Studio. Her students regularly perform as soloists with orchestras, attend prestigious music festivals, win and place in competitions, and go on to earn college degrees in music. Sarah has also performed with the Lincoln Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra, Auburn Symphony, Waco Symphony, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, substituted as concertmaster of Seattle Modern Orchestra, and was previously concertmaster of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra.
Sarah received her Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance with honors and her Master of Chamber Music degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, and her Doctor of Musical Arts with an emphasis in String Quartet from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln as part of the graduate quartet-in-residence with Skyros Quartet. Her dissertation, “Virtuoso Violinist Maud Powell: Enduring Champion of American Women in Professional Music,” adds to the research literature of feminist musicology. Her main mentors include the Coleman Violin Studio, Brian Lewis, Sandy Yamamoto and the Miró Quartet, Hyeyung Yoon and the Chiara String Quartet, Jerzy Kaplanek and the Penderecki Quartet, Earl Carlyss, James Dunham, and Sylvia Rosenberg.
Brandon Vance (BM, MM) had a prodigious start to his performance career when he won the U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship in 1999, the youngest to do so, at the age of 14. Since then, he has established himself as a violinist, fiddler, ensemble player, and music educator, performing and teaching at universities and venues throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including University of Oregon, University of Limerick in Ireland, and The Nevis Centre in Fort William, Scotland. In addition to performing with the Northwest Sinfonietta and maintaining a private violin studio in the Seattle area, Mr. Vance is an active composer and self-produced recording artist with seven albums to his name. He joined Skyros Quartet in 2019.
Dr. Justin Kurys is a founding member and violist of Skyros Quartet. As a member of Skyros he performs nationally, with tours to California, Connecticut, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, and throughout Washington State; as well as internationally with tours to Canada and China. Recent highlights include performances with Skyros at Benaroya Hall for the Seattle Chamber Music Society Winter Festival, several performances at SOMA towers for their Resonance Concert Series, multiple performances at Harris Hall for the Aspen Music Festival and School, and at the Moscow Music Festival, in Moscow Idaho. Dr. Kurys is on faculty at Seattle University. With Skyros, he can be heard on their debut recording “Introspective Odyssey” which was received with critical acclaim. Dr. Kurys maintains a private teaching studio in Lynnwood.
Dr. Willie Braun, cello is an active performer and teacher in the Seattle area. He is currently the cello instructor at Seattle University and maintains an active private cello studio. As a founding member of Skyros Quartet, he has performed across the US, Canada, and China.
Willie earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Chamber Music Performance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His doctoral document, “The History of the Cello Endpin and Its Effect on Technique and Repertoire,” is the first publication in over twenty years dedicated to this specific topic. Willie also holds music performance degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and Arizona State University. He has studied under the direction of Gregory Beaver, Joshua Gindele, Thomas Landschoot, and the Miro and Chiara String Quartets.